Bedbugs coming back in returned library books are a concern to librarians, but local library officials say the problem has been overblown in some recent media reports.
Bedbugs and their eggs can get into the spines of hardcover books, especially books that have been left in bedrooms where bedbugs live.
A story earlier this month in the New York Times titled “A Dark and Itchy Night” says “libraries are scrambling to deal with the problem.” The story says the tiny bedbugs can come out of infested books and bite the sleeping reader.
Issac Pulver, director of the Saratoga Springs Public Library on Henry Street, said his staff encountered a single case of bedbugs in books being returned in June 2010.
Pulver said the staff member checking in books found evidence of bedbugs. Some of the books belonged to the Saratoga Springs library and some were books belonging to the Schenectady County Public Library taken out on interlibrary loan.
The library staff destroyed the books it owned — they were popular best sellers, not anything of great value — and put the interlibrary loan books in zip-lock plastic bags and placed them in a freezer.
The library immediately called its pest-control professionals to inspect the building and treat any problems it discovered, Pulver said.
The library staff also contacted the person who brought in the bedbug-infested books. He was told he could not take any more books out until he had a note from an exterminator or his landlord that his home was bedbug-free.
“It was a pretty awkward conversation to have,” Pulver said. He said the man cooperated with all the library requests, and continues to be a library patron.
This was the only bedbug case the library has had, Pulver said. He said the downtown library continues to set circulation records, with more than 900,000 items being loaned over the past year.
Pulver and Alexandra Gutelius, director of the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library on Moe Road in Clifton Park, said the New York Times article about bedbugs and bedbug eggs in books has been widely criticized for causing unnecessary panic in library patrons.
“It caused a panic that is not warranted,” Pulver said.
The New York Times story did note that the sprawling New York Public Library system has had fewer than 10 confirmed bedbug cases since 2010 in its 90 branches in the New York City metropolitan area.
Pulver said his library takes the issue of bedbugs seriously and dealt quickly with the one problem it encountered more than two years ago.
Gutelius said the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library has never had a bedbug incident.
However, starting in January, the library will have exterminators from Northeast Pest Control come into the library on a quarterly basis to check for bedbugs.
“They have trained dogs,” Gutelius said. She said the inspections take about an hour.
“We are doing it as a precaution,” said Gutelius. She said the quarterly inspections are not costly.